Let’s check in with the City of Marathon

George Garrett, City Manager of the City of Marathon, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city. 

Florida Keys Day in Tallahassee was quite successful. 

Garrett said, “We went up there with the city attorney, the planning director, three of our council members who didn’t have other obligations and could make it up. Also, for the first time, we brought along somebody that sort of tracked us and could actually present back to our various media sites. We had a good two or three days up there. We went up on a Tuesday came back on a Friday. We certainly made efforts to move some of our concerns forward. We talked a bit to the state about hurricane evacuation modeling and what the issues are for BPAS or ROGO in the future. That was part of the discussion while we’re up there, where are we going? How are we going to get this done? What dialogue do we need to have? It’s an a dialogue that engages all parties, which is honestly what it was intended to do when we began adopting our resolution back in January The other thing that we did, we met with the Department of Environmental Protection. We’ve settled a lawsuit, and I think it’s how formally settled with the group known as FOLKS. Our commitment now is to get a deep well done. Quite honestly, that costs money. So we talked to DEP about what the ramifications were for accomplishing that, what some of the permitting requirements were, and, frankly, what some of the funding opportunities would be. So we’re we’re beginning to move forward on that. We’ve already done some of the assessments internally for what preliminary costs are going to be and so it’s moving forward, and it probably was the biggest part of our days up there. We, of course, met with Ana Maria Rodriguez. We met with Senator Calatayud. I think everybody will remember her from last year and some work she’s doing this year on behalf of the President of the Senate, on behalf of the Local Act. Of course, the Local Act for us means affordable housing. It’s more constrained, but we certainly were happy to see that bill come through last year. It assisted us with the 1,300 units, in addition, and frankly, the city of Marathon sees today roughly 124 of the 300 units that we obtained out of the 1,300 units under construction, and not that far from being built. So those are the benefits that we’ve seen over the last year and coming into this year.”

Did any revelations come out of the discussion about BPAS and ROGO? 

Garrett said, “What I would actually say is I’m going to bring it back to home. Of course, there was a lot of stuff out in the press, and so on, which was probably not really well based. But I think there’s been some very solid discussions since. The county commission, after some workshop meetings that we had just before we went to Tallahassee is now discussing the possibility of, at least in the interim, loaning us, the city, some of their market rate units. So we can sort of be on the same timeline that the county is now. Personally, and I think, even the city council, and that’s really what matters, we’re going to continue to dialogue about the specifics of what happens with ROGO next year or the year after. But we’re going to do it in collaboration, cooperation with all the other jurisdictions that are involved, and we’ll just see where it goes. But the good thing for right now is staff here and staff at the county are already working on an interlocal agreement for the potential loan of some units to the city of Marathon for the next probably two or three years.”

It looks like the possibility of a charter government for Monroe County may not happen. 

Garrett said, “I think it might have been predictable that they would back off of that. I don’t know quite why but I mean, I do but, I guess I was caught by surprise a little bit myself, that they sort of tabled the issue for a year or two. I don’t guess that that discussion has gone away. I think the county honestly did as good a job as they possibly could have done in developing a charter document that protected the cities as much as it possibly could. Whether it happens or not, it’s not a question of whether I personally support it or not. It is ultimately a question of whether the city council would support it with the approval the county to move forward with it all. Of course, it would go out to referendum. So we’ll just see where it goes. I think the county did a good job in trying to at least alleviate concerns that might arise from local governments. Beyond that, they pulled back on it, and I’m sure we’ll see that in future years.”

The Marathon City Council will meet on February 13 where the Quay Property will be back for discussion. 

Garrett said, “There was a lot of discussion at a workshop, we did present the original proposal, a new proposal, which would include some additional boat ramps. So the details were essentially laid out, the pros and cons were laid out, no decisions were made. And we put it back on the agenda for a discussion next Tuesday, which would allow the council to actually make a decision. And the key issue here is, which way do you want to go? So that staff can begin working on the engineering and permitting for that. So we would begin to spend money to try to get it done, whichever way they choose. We have approvals and actually bids, in fact, for a bathroom facility there. So there’s a little bit of construction that has begun. But you know, if you went out and stood there, I don’t know that you’d see it yet. But we do have bids for the bathroom that we’re going to build there.”

The municipal services taxing unit for the fisherman’s hospital will also be on the agenda. 

Garrett said, “Of course, that MSTU the way that MSTU had to be formulated at the county, this county ordinance, that we bought into or adopted as well. But legally and legislatively, it had to come from the county, and at the same time, it largely incorporates the city of Marathon. So we’ve always been a part of that decision making. So that all said I mean, I think the MSTU was intended, as I remember to generate as much as 15 million. I believe, from what I’m understanding from Fisherman’s or Baptist, they’re very close or within a year, maybe a year and a half of accomplishing that through the MSTU. Remember that, though, I think initially there was a thought that the MSTU could go into construction of the facility there. In fact, what it does is compensate for indigent care, and, and that’s something that legally could be done through the MSTU. I know that Baptist will be there on Tuesday. They will discuss the issue briefly with council. They’ve all already met with council members individually, to discuss where we stand with statuses today, currently, and then we’ll have that discussion on Tuesday. I believe there will be a vote one way or the other to continue with the MSTU. We’ll go from there. I think I’m guessing that we’ve continued this to date and we’ll probably want to continue it this year, and I think we’re probably within a year to maybe two of seeing this sunset.”